Left-wing Israeli academics show solidarity with Ben & Jerry’s

While academics and the New Israel Fund lauded Ben & Jerry’s, 90 MKs called on Unilever to overturn the boycott.

By World Israel News Staff

In a full-page advertisement published in Haaretz, 92 Israelis, including more than 30 academics, applauded Ben & Jerry’s for refusing to sell its ice cream in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

“Dear Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield,” the letter began, “We are writing to let you know that in Israel there are other opinions. Thank you for your commitment to Palestinian human rights.”

In smaller print below the signatures, the ad stated, “This statement of gratitude is directed towards Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings, Inc. in Vermont, and not to the company’s Israeli franchise.”

That was a reference to Avi Zinger, who owns the Israeli franchise. He refused Vermont’s demands that he cease selling the ice cream in what the board called “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The board responded by saying it would not renew his contract when it expires in 2023.

The ad was published in English and Hebrew.

Signatories included 37 academics who work at Israel’s publicly funded universities. Several former Labor, Meretz and Arab Joint List Knesset members also signed.

The boycott decision was made by the Ben & Jerry’s board of directors. Cohen and Greenfield sold their company to Unilever in 2000. Although the two remain active in the business, they have no control. Unilever is an international conglomerate based in London.

An unusual aspect of the sale was that Unilever permitted Ben & Jerry’s to maintain an independent board of directors to oversee its licensing, branding and social missions. The board originally intended to boycott all of Israel, but Unilever intervened on that point, creating tensions between the two.

The Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu blasted the letter, saying, “There is no parallel in the world to this phenomenon of hypocrisy and ungratefulness, in which these professors and former politicians earn their living at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer, yet at the same time work to boycott and slander them.”

The New Israel Fund also expressed solidarity with Ben & Jerry’s.

On Monday, the U.S.-based non-profit organization tweeted, “We join with our partners @ameinu @PeaceNowUS @HabonimDrorNA @jstreetdotorg @truahrabbis and @Partners4Israel in issuing a letter to U.S. governors opposing calls to take legal action against Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company Unilever.”

Unilever faces legal scrutiny in 35 states that have anti-BDS laws. Businesses that boycott Israel stand to lose contracts with those states. Many state pensions would also be required to divest themselves of holdings in Unilever.

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Meanwhile, 90 Knesset members signed a letter, spearheaded by Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari, calling on Unilever CEO Alan Jope to overturn the Ben & Jerry’s boycott.

“On this letter are the signatures of almost all members of the Israeli parliament, from all across the political spectrum,” the letter said. “From the left to the right, religious and secular, Druze and Jewish, men and women. We stand together against the outrageous decision made last week by Ben & Jerry’s Global, a company owned by Unilever International.”